LAST week we told how the North East in mid January experienced its coldest night for years when temperatures in Durham plummeted to minus 25.

It reminded John Askwith that exactly 40 years ago, Shildon was struck by a similar cold snap which coincided, on January 13 and 14, 1982, with a two-day strike by railway workers in the ASLEF union.

Therefore, when the line to Bishop Auckland reopened on January 15, there was a long and cold problem.

The Northern Echo: How The Northern Echo reported the aftermath of the rail strike 40 years ago

“In Shildon Tunnel, the icicles were twicicles as huge as anything veteran railman George Bolam has seen in his life,” began the report in The Northern Echo by a young reporter with an interesting turn of phrase.

“You can put your arms around them,” he told Mike Amos. “It’s like something from Disneyland.”

He was clearly referring to the film Frozen, even though it wasn’t released until 2013.

The lack of traffic had allowed icicles to grow so that they hung 8ft down from the ceiling right the way along the 1,220 yard long tunnel.

“No one’s ever seen anything as bad as this, but we are all resolved to get trains moving again,” said Darlington area manager Bill Lake.

The Northern Echo: Men clearing the giant icicles from the Shildon Tunnel 40 years ago

Men wearing safety helmets – “one of these things could smash your skull like matchwood”, said George” – attacked the icicles with poles, chisels and “a pneumatic pick on wheels” in what was, said the reporter without fear of exaggeration, “Britain’s biggest de-icing job”.

The icebreakers worked through the night so that by 11.15am the first train for three days could leave Bishop Auckland. It had two people on board.

The Northern Echo: The first train through Shildon Tunnel on January 15, 1982, after giant icicles had been removed

The first train through Shildon Tunnel on January 15, 1982, after giant icicles had been removed

THE article a fortnight ago on the Aycliffe Angels prompted Carol Hannant to get in touch seeking information. Her family believes that her aunt, Rita Greene (nee Tyreman), who was born in Sadberge in 1919, was one of the 17,000 women who worked at the Aycliffe factory filling shells.

“My mother used to say that her nervous disposition was caused by her working there,” says Carol.

There are military records which enable people to track their ancestors’ service in the army or navy, but is there anything anywhere that allows people to find out whether a family member was an Aycliffe Angel? If you can provide us with some information, we’d love to hear from you…